NICOLA Sturgeon teetered on to the stage beneath the three monumental letters SNP and gave her activists the news they’d all been waiting for.

“Let me clear something up right at the start,” she said, as the auto-ovation sat down. There was a slight gasp. Would she do it? Was she going to name the date for Indyref2?

“You will have seen my shoes,” she said, referring to the snakeskin stilts below her.

“I can barely walk in these heels. Dancing was never an option!”

Ah, the obligatory Theresa May gag. Tick!

But despite her protestations, the First Minister led her audience a merry little dance all the same. Although it was more hokey cokey than Strictly.

One minute, independence was nigh. The next, far away. In out, in out, dither all about.

For a party divided over the timing of a referendum, it was an appropriately divided message.

To the urgent, unicorn-wrangling faction, she offered hope and optimism, painting a picture of Scotland stepping imminently from the smouldering ruins of a post-Brexit UK.

To the Presbyterian realists, she offered years of hard work, slog and delicious self-denial.

The clues were there from the start that the Yes Pleasers were going to be disappointed.

We should learn from the Scotland’s women’s football team, Ms Sturgeon said.

“Perseverance. Resilience. Eyes on the prize, no matter how hard the path might seem.”

We felt a metaphor coming.

“For many in the SNP’s long history, our goal – the goal of independence – would have seemed long off. But the dedication to building a better Scotland never wavered.”

The realists shivered in grim satisfaction, but didn’t enjoy it.

Then the First Plate Spinner gave her other audience a tickle.

“Our goal is clearly in sight,” she declared suddenly. Wild cheers bounced around the SEC.

Then it was back to gritty realism. “Much of the pressure politicians face today is for instant answers and short-term action. But governments have a duty to plan for the long term.”

It was exhausting, this one-woman tennis rally. And we were only on the second page.

On and on it went, the SNP leader marching her troops up and down the hill, flicking from hope to nope, from the Promised Land to Poundland.

She sprinkled in a few policies on the NHS and jobs. Education, however, was virtually absent. Closing the attainment gap was her “top priority,” she said.

Then never mentioned it again.

Poor dunce-capped education secretary John Swinney was punished as the butt of a joke.

Fundraising for a homeless charity, the deputy FM slept outside “on one of the coldest nights of the year,” she said. “I say, that’s what deputies are for.”

Mr Swinney threw back his head and laughed away the tears.

Then it was on to the hokey cokey climax. Ms Sturgeon’s face tightened. She knew this was the bit the Yessers would like least.

“The passion in our movement is wonderful. It gladdens my heart,” she grimaced.

“To those who say there is no demand for Scotland to have a choice over our future, I say the polls and people tell a different story.” The applause was phenomenal.

“Our job is to take that passion and blend it with pragmatism, perseverance and patience.” The applause was minimal.

“As we wait – impatiently – for the fog of Brexit to clear...” The applause was inaudible.

Fog of Brexit? What happened to “our goal is clearly in sight”?

But Ms Sturgeon knows what strings to pull.

“I’m more confident than ever Scotland will be independent ... A better future is within our grasp!” she sang.

The applause returned. Just don’t expect a sprint in those heels.